A chance for Hamas to find friends outside of Damascus



In mid-March Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based leader of Hamas, spoke to Bashar Al Assad to express his concern about the Syrian regime's crackdown on popular protests spreading across the country. Mr Meshaal had been asked to do so by key supporters at a private meeting at his home in the Syrian capital a few days earlier.

Mr Al Assad's response was characteristically blunt: you are either with us or against us. He demanded that Hamas mobilise its followers inside Syria, in occupied Palestine and throughout the region in support of the regime. Mr Meshaal responded by telling the president that Hamas was grateful for the regime's support but that it also stood with the people, and wished to maintain its distance between the two.

While the regime was outraged, Mr Meshaal made clear that if the regime insisted with its demands, he and his entourage would leave Syria. Faced with the prospect of losing one of his best assets, Mr Al Assad relented, and the Hamas leadership, after much deliberation, decided to maintain its headquarters in Damascus, albeit with a reduced number of staff. Since then, an uneasy calm has existed between the two.

However, the uprising in Syria has shaken the foundations of the relationship. The announcement last week that Hamas had opened an interests office in Cairo, hot on the heels of the Hamas-Israel prisoner deal, in which Egyptian security officials played a crucial role, suggests that the movement has begun to consider options outside of Damascus.

As the growing influence of Egypt demonstrates, Hamas-Syrian relations are increasingly being shaped by other actors. Under the weight of a range of regional pressures, and given the new narrative of the Arab Awakenings, Hamas has found it difficult to chart an independent political course over the past few months.

It was no coincidence therefore that Turkey and Qatar took nearly two-thirds of the 42 Palestinian prisoners exiled abroad in the Shalit prisoner swap deal. Both countries have emerged as independently minded regional powers that balance relations with Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, and the United States. Having established closer relations with Hamas in the wake of its forced take-over of the Gaza strip in 2007, both are now in a position to influence the group.

Turkey in particular has provided technical assistance and institutional know-how to the Hamas government in Gaza, in many cases training a new cadre of technocrats. Arguably, such engagement has had a "civilising effect", focusing the movement towards governance rather than its mantra of "armed resistance". In Gaza at least, the majority of its security efforts are now focused on controlling and halting rocket fire from other extremist groups.

The upheaval in Syria and throughout the region has also left Hamas in a precarious financial situation. According to Gaza-based economists, the Hamas government's main source of funding - Iran, which provides about two thirds of the government's total monthly budget of about $20 million (Dh73 million) - has dried up over the past three months. The Iranians are deeply unhappy that Hamas has not led the Palestinian street in defence of the actions of the Assad regime. The group's other flows of funding, namely non-governmental organisations (most of them Gulf-based) and the Muslim Brotherhood International, have also slowed as these donors face competing demands from Islamist parties eager to compete in the region's new political environment.

Reliant on outside donations for 90 per cent of its total revenues, Hamas is having to look elsewhere to plug its immediate budgetary demands - which include meeting the costs of governing Gaza, funding the movement at large and maintaining its security wing. Its government has had to raise fuel and other commodity taxes and is also set to unveil a new tax scheme, making Gazans increasingly nervous and damaging the movement's popularity. Although revenues from the tunnel economy have slowed following the partial lifting of Israel's siege, it continues to provide an estimated $500,000 daily in fuel, cigarette and even car taxes to Hamas, giving weight to the argument for lifting Gaza's isolation entirely.

Adding to Hamas's predicament, President Mahmoud Abbas is riding a wave of popular support following his successful trip to the United Nations and quest for membership. This, in large part, explains why Hamas threw in its best card, Gilad Shalit, without obtaining the release of some of the longest-serving Hamas prisoners, including Ibrahim Hamed and Abbas Al Sayyid, two of its top military commanders. Nevertheless, the timing was crucial - Hamas clearly felt the need to reassert itself, and the group has enjoyed a popularity boost as a result. Ultimately, the celebrations and the rhetoric of "more Shalits'" may have been a fundraising exercise to attract attention to Hamas's cause.

Hamas's base in Damascus and reliance on Iranian support are both in jeopardy, leaving the group in an uncomfortable predicament. It is, however, a predicament which they should be encouraged to turn into a positive political route. The developments in Syria may ultimately force Hamas to take a more pragmatic, politically flexible path. The reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah, given new impetus by recent events, is the clearest sign of this new direction, forged under the pressure of regional developments.

It seems as if both Israel and the United States long ago lost faith in any internal evolution of the movement. This is a mistake. Now is the time to work with the regional partners who have influence over the group to encourage Hamas and Fatah to unite under a unified Palestinian government of state-builders. In this regard, it is also time to lift the partial siege of Gaza and restore access and movement for its long-suffering citizens. Given the changes sweeping the region, it is both a political and moral imperative.

Salman Shaikh is the director of the Brookings Doha Center and former special assistant to the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process

ACC T20 Women’s Championship

UAE fixtures
Friday, June 17 v Oman
Saturday, June 18 v Singapore
Monday, June 20 v Malaysia
Wednesday, June 22 v Qatar
Friday, June 24, semi-final
Saturday, June 25, final

UAE squad: Chaya Mughal (captain), Esha Oza, Indhuja Nandakumar, Kavisha Kumari, Khushi Sharma, Lavanya Keny, Priyanjali Jain, Rithika Rajith, Samaira Dharnidharka, Sanchin Singh, Siya Gokhale, Suraksha Kotte, Theertha Satish, Vaishnave Mahesh

Profile of Hala Insurance

Date Started: September 2018

Founders: Walid and Karim Dib

Based: Abu Dhabi

Employees: Nine

Amount raised: $1.2 million

Funders: Oman Technology Fund, AB Accelerator, 500 Startups, private backers

 

 


 

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Dresos

Started: September 2020

Founders: Vladimir Radojevic and Aleksandar Jankovic

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Fashion

Funding: $285,000; $500,000 currently being raised

Investors: Crowdfunding, family, friends and self-funding

Spec sheet

Display: 4.7" Retina HD, 1334 x 750, 625 nits, 1400:1, True Tone, P3
Chip: Apple A15 Bionic, 6-core CPU, 4-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
Camera: 12MP, f/1.8, 5x digital zoom, Smart HDR, Deep Fusion
Video: 4K+@ 24/30/60fps, full HD+@ 30/60fps, HD+@ 30 fps
Front camera:
7MP, f/2.2, Smart HDR, Deep Fusion; HD video+@ 30fps
Battery: Up to 15 hours video, 50 hours audio; 50% fast charge in 30 minutes with 20W charger; wireless charging
Biometrics: Touch ID
Durability: IP67, dust, water resistant up to 1m for 30 minutes
Price: From Dh1,849

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home. 

AndhaDhun

Director: Sriram Raghavan

Producer: Matchbox Pictures, Viacom18

Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan

Rating: 3.5/5

TECH SPECS: APPLE WATCH SERIES 9

Display: 41mm – 352 x 430; 45mm – 396 x 484; always-on Retina LTPO OLED, 2000 nits max; Ion-X glass (aluminium cases), sapphire crystal (stainless steel cases)

Processor: Apple S9 64-bit, W3 wireless, 2nd-gen Ultra Wideband

Capacity: 64GB

Memory: 1GB

Platform: watchOS 10

Health metrics: Blood oxygen sensor, electrical heart sensor and ECG, 3rd-gen optical heart sensor, high and low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm notifications, sleep stages, temperature sensing

Emergency services: Emergency SOS, international emergency calling, crash detection, fall detection

Connectivity: GPS/GPS + cellular; Wi-Fi, LTE, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC (Apple Pay)

Durability: IP6X, water resistant up to 50m, dust resistant

Battery: 308mAh Li-ion, up to 18h regular/36h low power; wireless charging

Cards: eSIM

Finishes: Aluminium – midnight, pink, Product Red, silver, starlight; stainless steel – gold, graphite, silver

In the box: Watch Series 9, woven magnetic-to-USB-C charging cable, band/loop

Price: Starts at Dh1,599 (41mm) / Dh1,719 (45mm)

How to donate

Send “thenational” to the following numbers or call the hotline on: 0502955999
2289 – Dh10
2252 – Dh 50
6025 – Dh20
6027 – Dh 100
6026 – Dh 200

How Filipinos in the UAE invest

A recent survey of 10,000 Filipino expatriates in the UAE found that 82 per cent have plans to invest, primarily in property. This is significantly higher than the 2014 poll showing only two out of 10 Filipinos planned to invest.

Fifty-five percent said they plan to invest in property, according to the poll conducted by the New Perspective Media Group, organiser of the Philippine Property and Investment Exhibition. Acquiring a franchised business or starting up a small business was preferred by 25 per cent and 15 per cent said they will invest in mutual funds. The rest said they are keen to invest in insurance (3 per cent) and gold (2 per cent).

Of the 5,500 respondents who preferred property as their primary investment, 54 per cent said they plan to make the purchase within the next year. Manila was the top location, preferred by 53 per cent.

Day 1 results:

Open Men (bonus points in brackets)
New Zealand 125 (1) beat UAE 111 (3)
India 111 (4) beat Singapore 75 (0)
South Africa 66 (2) beat Sri Lanka 57 (2)
Australia 126 (4) beat Malaysia -16 (0)

Open Women
New Zealand 64 (2) beat South Africa 57 (2)
England 69 (3) beat UAE 63 (1)
Australia 124 (4) beat UAE 23 (0)
New Zealand 74 (2) beat England 55 (2)

Know your cyber adversaries

Cryptojacking: Compromises a device or network to mine cryptocurrencies without an organisation's knowledge.

Distributed denial-of-service: Floods systems, servers or networks with information, effectively blocking them.

Man-in-the-middle attack: Intercepts two-way communication to obtain information, spy on participants or alter the outcome.

Malware: Installs itself in a network when a user clicks on a compromised link or email attachment.

Phishing: Aims to secure personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Ransomware: Encrypts user data, denying access and demands a payment to decrypt it.

Spyware: Collects information without the user's knowledge, which is then passed on to bad actors.

Trojans: Create a backdoor into systems, which becomes a point of entry for an attack.

Viruses: Infect applications in a system and replicate themselves as they go, just like their biological counterparts.

Worms: Send copies of themselves to other users or contacts. They don't attack the system, but they overload it.

Zero-day exploit: Exploits a vulnerability in software before a fix is found.

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

WHEN TO GO:

September to November or March to May; this is when visitors are most likely to see what they’ve come for.

WHERE TO STAY:

Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari - Chitwan National Park resort (tajhotels.com) is a one-hour drive from Bharatpur Airport with stays costing from Dh1,396 per night, including taxes and breakfast. Return airport transfers cost from Dh661.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Etihad Airways regularly flies from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu from around Dh1,500 per person return, including taxes. Buddha Air (buddhaair.com) and Yeti Airlines (yetiairlines.com) fly from Kathmandu to Bharatpur several times a day from about Dh660 return and the flight takes just 20 minutes. Driving is possible but the roads are hilly which means it will take you five or six hours to travel 148 kilometres.

Kandahar

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Stars: Gerard Butler, Navid Negahban, Ali Fazal

Rating: 2.5/5

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.


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